Vision(s) of the University. Applying Participatory Backcasting to Study the Future of Higher Education.

Abstract

The future of the higher education sector in general, and that of higher education institutions in particular is both troubling and uncertain. At the moment, it seems that there are several social, political, economic and technological trends which really test the sector’s and the institutions’ adaptive capacities. These challenges have brought forth a number of papers and reports about the changing role and organisational structure of these institutions. We would like to contribute to this discussion by summarising the results of our participatory project concerning the future of higher education. The project started in 2014 and included two participatory backcasting workshops involving lecturers and students. The aim of our paper is to discuss the results of the participatory research project that involved key stakeholders on envisioning the future of higher education. The differences between the views of the lecturers and the students stress the importance of involving different stakeholder groups in the discussion about the future of higher education. As far as the different perspectives are concerned, two key points are worth highlighting: the open vs closed nature of higher education and in relation to this an inward looking, organisational vs an outward looking, network-focused perspective. These opposing viewpoints not only show differing visions of the future but also reveal current tensions between key stakeholders about what role should higher education institutions play in the social and economic environments.

Keywords: Future of higher education, Backcasting, Participation, Participatory research, Differences between student and lecturer perspectives.

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